Buying Your First Pontoon Boat

Searching for your first pontoon boat doesn’t have to be overwhelming, even if it may seem like it at first. You know pontoon boats are the most versatile craft on the water, so whatever you get will be able to accommodate your specific desires. Still, you can hone in further to make sure you get the ideal boat for what you like to do, while maintaining the versatility that will allow you to enjoy other activities, as well.

Call it a “starter boat” if you want, but with all the possibilities available, you’ll consider yourself a boating veteran in no time.

Tips for first-time pontoon buyers, featuring Manitou's Aurora models—great options for a first pontoon boat.

What Do You Want to Do with Your Pontoon Boat?

If you plan to use your boat for skiing, tubing, and other water sports, you need to look into a model with a powerful engine and easy access in and out of the water.

Prefer lounging, entertaining, or fishing? If so, you can focus less on the boat’s power and more on its deck space, seating capacity and configuration, and specialty fishing accessories like a live well, fish locator, and fishing chairs.

Again, because pontoon boats are incredibly versatile, you won’t be sacrificing one activity in order to get another. Instead, think of it as maximizing the activities you will do most often.

For more of the basics to consider, check out Four Questions to Ask Before You Buy.

First Pontoon Boats: Get a Lot for a Little

One of the best features of pontoon boats—at all price levels—is how much you get relative to the cost. The value of a pontoon boat is unbeatable.

When looking for a starter boat, there are three Manitou models we recommend you look at right away, to get Manitou’s industry-leading performance at an affordable price:

Aurora

Known as the most accessible pontoon boat on the water, the 2018 Aurora has all the craftsmanship and performance you expect from Manitou, but at the most attractive price in the line.

Manitou 20 Aurora RF pontoon boat

Aurora LE

The most customizable Manitou line, Aurora LE, lets you choose exactly what you want while getting unmatchable performance at this price point.

Manitou 25 Aurora LE RF VP pontoon boat

Aurora Angler LE

Built for the fisherman, the Aurora Angler LE is extremely customizable and adaptable to all pontoon activities. This model gives you the fishing chairs and accessories you need to spend the day angling on the water.

Manitou 20 Aurora Angler VP pontoon boat

Find Your Pontoon Model 

Pontoon boats are versatile, accessible, and affordable. If you’re looking for your first pontoon boat, the Aurora models will give you value you can’t find anywhere else.

For more information on our Auroras and all the other Manitou pontoon boats, take a look at our buying guide, and get connected with a Manitou dealer near you.

 

How Do Lifting Strakes Work?

When you want your pontoon boat to go faster, or ride smoother in rough waters, you would benefit from having lifting strakes. But what are lifting strakes? What do they do? And do you have them already?

Chances are, if you’ve purchased a 3 tube pontoon boat in the last several years (and certainly if you bought it from us), lifting strakes were already installed and are doing their job.

Lifting strake on a Manitou 25 Legacy LT SHP
Example of a lifting strake on a Manitou 25 Legacy LT SHP

The Basics

As pontoon boats continue to get more versatile, allowing for owners to leisurely float, casually cruise, or play water sports like skiing and tubing at high speeds, outboard motors are getting bigger.

With bigger outboards, the pontoons need some help generating lift. Without lift, the boat would be limited to floating and slow cruising. That’s where lifting strakes come in. The strakes, welded directly onto the pontoons, produce lift at the bow by displacing water, allowing the boat to, in essence, glide above the water rather than lumber through it.

Many lifting strakes use negative angles, which can generate lift, but can hurt the quality of the ride due to increased slamming loads.

Manitou’s lifting strakes work to not only create lift, but also to make the ride smoother.

Lifting Strakes on Manitou's V-Toon Design

Manitou V-Toon Lifting Strake Design

Instead of using negative-angle strakes, we designed strakes that work in concert with our V-Toon technology to give boaters the speed—and the smooth ride—they want. The key is creating and maintaining balance.

Because our V-Toon tritoon boats are the most agile and predictable at high speeds on the water, we attached strakes to the inside and outside of all three pontoons of our SHP (sports handling package) hulls, enhancing the agility and predictability to keep you moving exactly as you want, whether you’re skiing, cruising, or anchoring.

Benefits of Lifting Strakes

When your strakes are installed properly and working effectively, you get several tangible benefits:

  • More speed. When you’re above the water rather than trying to plow through it, you can generate significantly more speed.
  • Smoother ride. Especially with V-Toon technology, the balance and lift you get from the strakes keep your ride smooth.
  • Better fuel efficiency. Simple: when it’s easier for your boat to move, it requires less fuel to do so.

Lifting strakes can be retrofitted to your pontoons, but as mentioned earlier, most new models will come equipped with them. If you decide to add them to your current model, you’ll of course want to make sure they are expertly positioned and that the welding is top-notch to get the true benefits of the modification.

Are you in the market for a new (or new to you) pontoon? Strakes are a feature you’ll want for an optimal experience on the water.

If you’re curious about other features of our pontoon and tritoon boats, check out our current Buying Guide, or learn more about our patented V-Toon technology.

Pontoon Boat Safety

Boating Safety TipsDid you know that May 19-25, 2018, is National Safe Boating Week? We take safety very seriously here at Manitou, and we wanted to share some statistics and tips to to promote pontoon boat safety—not just this week, but throughout the year.

In 2016, there were over 4400 recreational boating accidents, which resulted in 701 deaths, along with an estimated $49 million in damages. Of these accidents, 120 injuries and 47 deaths were reported to happen upon a pontoon boat. Don’t become a statistic—make safety your top priority to ensure a fun, secure trip for everyone!

Top Reasons for Boating Accidents

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s most recent Recreational Boating Statistics Report, the major contributing factors to boating accident fatalities in 2016 were all related to operation of the vessel. The top 5 contributing factors for fatal accidents were:

  1. Alcohol Use: 282 Accidents, 87 Deaths
  2. Operator Inexperience: 480 Accidents, 62 Deaths
  3. Operator Inattention: 597 Accidents, 45 Deaths
  4. Excessive Speeds: 360 Accidents, 39 Deaths
  5. Improper Lookout: 475 Accidents, 20 Deaths

Machinery failure was also the #3 contributing factor to all reported accidents, resulting in 323 accidents and 9 deaths.

Boating accidents don’t need to be fatal to be devastating, as accidents can also cause significant injury and property loss. Do your part to ensure safety on the water, whether you’re the captain or a passenger.

Pontoon Boat Safety Tips

  1. Always have enough age-appropriate life jackets on board for every person in your party. Accidents happen in the blink of an eye, meaning life jackets are better worn than stowed when out on the water. As drownings can occur even when life jackets are worn, make sure to regularly inspect the condition of your life jackets.
  2. Know your pontoon boat’s capacity so you don’t overload your vessel and risk sinking.
  3. Create a float plan for each trip—or at the very least, tell someone where you are heading and when you plan to return.
  4. Make sure your passengers are seated and wearing proper safety gear before taking off.
  5. Be an attentive and informed operator in all circumstances. If it’s been a while since your last boater safety course, consider brushing up on what you need to know. When using your pontoon for water sports, designate another passenger as your extra set of eyes on the water.
  6. Don’t drink and boat; just like on the roadways, driving under the influence on the water is illegal.
  7. Use an anchor when you want your boat to remain stationary.
  8. Keep an eye out for weather changes. Knowing how to manage your vessel in heavy winds or other intense circumstances is always a smart choice.
  9. Stay up-to-date with routine maintenance on your boat.

 

Boat Safety Checklist

Avoid accidents and injuries by keeping a safety checklist, including all of the equipment you need in the case of an emergency. Ensure your pontoon has a fire extinguisher, ring buoy, and first aid kit so that you are prepared. In addition, perform routine maintenance on your pontoon so that the engine, navigation lights, and other systems run smoothly. Before taking out your boat, consider putting together a safety kit that includes items like a pocket knife, radio, battery charger, and extra food and drink.

Download and print our Boat Safety Checklist and to keep as a reminder throughout the season:

Boat Safety Tips

[Click for a larger version in a new window]

The statistics in this article were gathered from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2016 Recreational Boating Statistics Report. Find more information on National Safe Boating Week at safeboatingcampaign.com.

How to Improve Pontoon Boat Performance

Manitou 27 X-Plode SRW Dual Engine
Manitou 27 X-Plode SRW Dual Engine

The power and performance of pontoon boats is becoming less of a secret and more of an expected feature for potential buyers. Nobody wants to give up the social aspect of the floating living room, but as engines get bigger and designs get sleeker (particularly with our V-Toon technology), pontoons—already the most versatile vessels on the water—are even more versatile. 

Add More Speed

The maximum speed of your pontoon boat is affected by several factors, mainly the size of the engine, the number of tubes beneath the deck, and the amount of weight the boat is carrying.

[Related reading: How Fast is a Pontoon Boat?]

If you’re looking for a faster pontoon boat, the easiest way is to lighten the load. That is, fewer people, fewer coolers, less furniture, etc. One of the best aspects of a pontoon boat is its versatility. While socializing with large groups of friends and family is a great way to spend time, you can also grab just a few friends, some tubes, some skis, and spend the day on the water with speed.

Increasing the power of your engine will also add speed to your boat. Most performance pontoon boats come with engines that provide plenty of power for speeds of 18-30 MPH, which is enough for tubing and skiing, but if you have a less powerful engine and are ready to speed things up, you can look into adding more horsepower.

Increase Performance with V-Toon Technology

Our V-Toon technology is designed to act like a v-hull boat. With a center tube sitting lower in the water, the tritoon design can lift and plane like a fiberglass boat while maintaining the stability of a pontoon boat.

Pontoon boats with V-Toon hulls give you quicker acceleration and higher overall speeds.

Enhance Performance

Reduce drag from splashing water by adding underskinning, and reduce wind resistance by lowering the bimini cover. By making sure your pontoons are clean below the water line, you increase the smoothness of the boat’s movement through the water, with the end result being a faster pontoon.

By keeping up with necessary maintenance and adapting your boat to the needs of the day, you can maximize its performance to the exact purpose of that day. Slowly cruising with friends is just as accessible as waterskiing. It’s completely up to you.

[Check out our performance pontoon boats for the best of both worlds!]

What to Know About Using Ethanol Gas in Your Boat or Outboard Motor

One of the most confusing topics in all of boating, pontoon or otherwise, deals with gasoline—particularly ethanol. Can you use it? If so, what percentage of it is okay to use in your boat engine? We’ll try to alleviate the confusion by breaking down the essential points.

What is Ethanol?

Ethanol is added to fuel to diminish pollution. Acting as an oxygenate, ethanol—which is essentially 200-proof grain alcohol—reduces hydrocarbon emissions. We should note that ethanol used for fuel is not safe to drink.

The most common ethanol-blended fuel is E10, which means the fuel is made of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. E15 (15% ethanol and 85% gas) has been the source of much debate in Washington, D.C. lately, with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) lobbying hard against the sale of E15.

Is ethanol gas bad for boat motors?

Is Ethanol Gas Bad for Boat Motors?

This is where it gets confusing. E15 is not good for boats. Do not put E15 into your boat’s motor. Using E15 in your boat’s motor can cause unfixable damage. You could find yourself with complete engine failure and all the safety risks that come with using a fuel incompatible with your boat’s engine.

However, E10 is good and compatible with all marine engines built in the last 10 years or so. Because a fuel’s ethanol content is not always obvious at the pump, it’s important to make absolutely certain you’re using E10 before filling the tank. This confusion, and the potentially damaging effects of putting the wrong amount of ethanol in your boat, is just one of the reasons the NMMA is so adamantly opposed to the sale of E15.

If E15 is So Bad, Why the Controversy?

The fight is over whether to allow the year-round sale of E15. Because there is more ethanol and less gasoline than in E10, E15 is better for the environment, and proponents also say selling E15 all year would lower prices. Further, a demand for a more environmentally-friendly fuel might help the industry work to produce even better fuels.

Currently, E15 cannot be sold all year largely because it can’t be produced all year. Its fuel volatility in the summer months is too high, leaving too great a risk to produce it.

The NMMA’s worry is that year-round sales of E15 will add further confusion to the issue and potentially lead to accidental and unnecessary destruction of recreational boaters’ vessels. When boaters fill their tanks, they don’t always thoroughly check to make sure their fuel is E10, and one mistake can lead to complete engine failure.

As the NMMA continues to lobby for recreational boaters and the industry, it’s important to know how to keep your own boat safe when fueling.

Fueling Tips:

  • Given a choice between E10 and E15, always use E10. However, certain engines may require other fuels, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual first.
  • Make absolutely certain you’re filling your tank with E10. Check at the pump. It’s easy to make a mistake, as some gas stations will have E10, E15, or even another type of fuel, so double (or triple) check before fueling.

 

Can a Pontoon Boat Pull a Skier?

One of the absolute greatest attributes of a pontoon boat has always been its versatility. There is no other boat on the water that lets people do as many things as a pontoon boat does.

Fishing, of course. Cruising with family and friends (and fitting a lot of them comfortably), yes. Socializing, swimming, dining—pontoon boats are floating parties, sanctuaries, or anything you want them to be.

And yes, you can waterski behind a pontoon boat.

Waterskiing behind a Manitou Legacy pontoon boat

Well, not every pontoon boat. Obviously, you need enough speed to be able to ski behind a boat, and to get speed, you need enough horsepower in the engine. Many people don’t associate horsepower with pontoon boats, but it’s time we change that belief.

Fun Skiing, Not Competitive Skiing

Let’s get this out of the way first: If you’re a competitive waterskier or wakeboarder, buy a ski boat. Serious skiers will want the wake generated by and maneuverability of a ski boat. For families and friends who enjoy tubing, skiing, or wakeboarding for fun, a pontoon boat could be exactly what you’re seeking.

Horsepower and Speed

In general, for someone to waterski or wakeboard, the boat needs to be moving at least 20 miles per hour, usually closer to 26 or 27. Tubing doesn’t require quite as much speed, and you can start to have fun at around 15 miles per hour.

A pontoon boat with a 70 horsepower engine is plenty for tubing. At that level, you might be able to get up on skis too, but 90 HP will serve you much better. After that, the more HP in your engine, the more adventurous you can get with your water sports.

It’s important to note these numbers are generalities. For example, if you’re entertaining 12 people on your boat, it’s going to be harder to reach speeds ideal for skiing. Ninety HP with 12 people on the boat moves a lot more slowly than 90 HP with two people. And 90 HP might be enough for a 20-foot boat to pull a skier, but you’re going to need more engine to ski behind a 26-foot boat.

Differences Between Skiing Behind a Pontoon Boat and Ski Boat

There is no doubt you can have fun wakeboarding, skiing, and tubing behind a pontoon boat, adding water sports to the long list of activities pontoon boats can accommodate.

As noted before, though, the shape of the wake won’t be what you traditionally think of in waterskiing. Essentially, this means you’ll have less rough water to play with on your skis. Likewise, pontoon boats generally aren’t as sharply maneuverable as a ski boat, so you won’t be flying side to side as much as you might on a boat designed specifically for sports; but for most people, a pontoon boat’s larger turning radius is plenty for a good time on skis. Only experienced, serious skiers will notice much of a difference.

Pontoon boats continue to get more versatile, more powerful, and more fun. Skiing, wakeboarding and tubing are just three of an ever-growing list of activities you can enjoy on your pontoon boat.

Pontoon Boats vs. Deck Boats

If you’re looking to invest in a new boat, there are several factors to consider. Many people narrow their options to choosing between a pontoon boat and a deck boat. Which is right for you? Obviously, it depends on what you’re looking for in a boat.

Consider these factors:

Cost

In general, a deck boat will be more expensive than a pontoon boat. However, more luxurious pontoon models will begin to approach a similar price point to a deck boat. And, depending on what type of engine you choose for either, that alone could cost up to 50% of the price of the boat itself. Obviously, prices vary among both styles of boats, but in most cases, a deck boat will cost more.

Size and Space

The actual size can be quite similar from a deck boat to a pontoon boat, so if this is your deciding factor, consider the purpose of your boat. Deck boats can usually accommodate up to 12 people, but the more-spacious layout of a pontoon boat can comfortably and safely fit up to 16 people on large models.

Pontoon boats have always been known as one of the best values on the water because of their ability to hold so many people at such an attractive price point.

With deck boats able to entertain up to a dozen people as well, you’ll want to consider what type of space you’re seeking. Most deck boats have all seating facing forward, which is especially nice when cruising at a high speed, whereas pontoons have the flexibility to face any direction, even re-arranging furniture while entertaining friends or family on the lake.

Both types of boat will have a fair amount of storage space, but generally speaking, a pontoon boat will have more.

Hull, Stability, and Ride

The decks of most pontoon boats lay flat across the two pontoons (also known as a multi-hull design), which makes them ideal for socializing. The flat hull keeps the boat steady in the water, both while moving and sitting still.

Deck boats, however, use v-hulls, which cut through the water while moving, allowing deck boats to accelerate more quickly than traditional pontoons. A pontoon boat trying to reach the same speed as a deck boat will require more fuel to do so; however, pontoons are much more fuel-efficient overall.

The downside of the fiberglass v-hull comes from its central axis, which leads the boat to rock with wind, waves, or movement of the passengers on the boat.

You no longer have to choose one or the other, though. Manitou’s V-Toon Technology, available on many of our models, mimics a traditional v-hull in shape while maintaining the stability of traditional pontoons.

Generally speaking, because of the different types of hulls, deck boats are better for slicing through the water, but pontoon boats keep you steady, whether you’re in motion or not.

Activities

With the recent increases in power on pontoon boats (again, depending on the type of engine you select), the disparities between what you can do on a deck boat as compared to a pontoon boat are shrinking, especially when you consider V-Toon performance.

For instance, a pontoon with a 150-horsepower engine is plenty for tubing or water skiing; however, it’s worth noting that if you’re an experienced tuber or skier, you may not catch as much air as you’d like. Deck boats are still superior in that respect, as they slice through the water and give you some wake to navigate.

If your water sport of choice is fishing, a pontoon boat is the way to go. Not that you can’t fish from a deck boat, but the stable platform and additional room on a pontoon boat will definitely be to your advantage as you try to reel in tonight’s dinner.

Maintenance

As with any watercraft, it’s essential to keep your boat clean and in working order. This requires effort on both deck and pontoon boats, but the difference here is most noticeable on the hulls. The aluminum pontoons are far easier to clean and maintain than the fiberglass hull of a deck boat, which needs to be wiped down after every day spent on the water. If you don’t wipe the gelcoat meticulously, water spots become ridiculously difficult to remove later.

Which is Right for You?

Pontoon boats remain the best value on the water and continue to advance, both in style and power, without losing the essential wide-open spaces perfect for entertaining socializing. Deck boats give you a little less space for socializing, but in many cases will move you through the water faster, even if you have to sacrifice a little stability and keep up a meticulous maintenance regimen. And if you find yourself wanting the best of both worlds, explore Manitou’s performance pontoons.

Can a Pontoon Boat Be Used in the Ocean?

Manitou Pontoons X-Plode XT

Pontoon boats are ideal for inland lakes and rivers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fit for ocean waters. In fact, they’re often used on the ocean, though generally close to shore and in inter-coastal areas such as bays and inlets.

A pontoon’s seaworthiness and safety on the ocean depends on the boat’s size, performance, and construction. Is it built to withstand the harsher conditions of salt water?

As the performance and handling of pontoons and tritoons continues to improve, people are starting to venture farther out. In addition to the quality of the boat, how far to go away from shore is up to the captain’s discretion and depends on the weather conditions. The captain should take into account how quickly they can navigate back to the marina or harbor if bad weather were to arise. (With dual engine models, this can be done pretty quickly).

Another brand took their pontoon boat from Florida to Cuba last year, and we do not recommend nor promote this as something you should do with a pontoon. We often say that on calm days, you can be safe within a couple miles of shore.

Construction and Performance Considerations

With larger bodies of water can come big waves, but the right construction makes a difference. While the greater stability that comes with a triple-hull pontoon can help, larger tubes – at least 25” in diameter – are also recommended for venturing onto bigger waters.

The pontoon tube thickness should also be considered for boating in ocean conditions, as in the sheet aluminum used to make the tubes. We make some of the thickest pontoons in the industry, beginning at a minimum of .090”

Having adequate horsepower to overcome waves when you need to is also important. The larger the better here, with 150 HP being the bare minimum we’d recommend for traveling any distance away from shore on a pontoon.

Protect Your Investment

Aluminum pontoons will react to salt water by corroding. Before going out on the ocean, extra care should be taken to protect the boat, including coating the tubes with an anti-fouling bottom paint. Equally as important is rinsing the hull thoroughly in fresh water after it has been exposed to salt water.

Finally, before you decide to take your pontoon boat out into brackish or sea water, be aware of the terms of the pontoon boat manufacturer‘s warranty. It may not protect your boat from corrosion due to salt water.

Manitou Receives 17th Consecutive NMMA CSI Award for Customer Satisfaction

Lansing, Michigan – Manitou Pontoon Boats is delighted to announce that they are once again a recipient of a Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) Award from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) for exceptional customer service. The 2017 Marine Industry CSI Award in the Pontoon Boats category marks the 17th consecutive CSI awarded to Manitou Pontoon Boats. This makes it every year since the awards inception.

The NMMA, the nation’s leading boating trade association, represents a wide range of businesses in the marine industry. They recognize manufacturers that actively monitor and measure customer satisfaction levels and then take actions to further improve customer satisfaction. The CSI Awards only recognize boating manufacturers that maintain an independently measured standard of excellence of 90 percent or higher in customer satisfaction.

“Receiving the 17th consecutive award is an honor. We have built pontoon boats for over 30 years now; we would not be able to say that without happy customers. The CSI program allows us to monitor our product satisfaction in near real time which is invaluable to improvement” said Scott VanWagenen, President of Manitou Boats.

Manitou understands that connecting with its customers to identify their personal needs on their pontoon boats is essential to providing them with the best customer service experience possible. We use this information to more accurately grade a customer’s opinion of their new pontoon boat, and to improve customer satisfaction moving forward.

 

Do Pontoon Boats Need Bottom Paint?

Bottom paint (also called antifouling paint) is one of many recommendations for maintaining recreational and commercial boats. So do pontoon boats need it? The short answer: It depends on where and how you use the pontoon.

In Freshwater:

Pontoons that are moored in freshwater for the season will benefit from bottom painting. Without it, the hull is susceptible to algae buildup, which can inhibit the boat’s speed and performance over time.

For pontoons moored in freshwater for shorter spans, or stored on a lift, trailer, or in dry storage between freshwater uses, bottom paint is not necessary as long as the pontoons are pressure washed thoroughly after each trip to remove any potential hitchhikers.

In Saltwater:

If the pontoon will be used in seawater or in brackish water like estuaries, bottom paint is absolutely necessary to protect the aluminum pontoons from corrosion below the waterline.

How Bottom Paint Works

When bottom paint is applied to a boat’s hull, it discourages salt, algae, barnacles, and other aquatic organisms from attaching to the surface. The paint includes a biocide as the “active ingredient,” which intentionally wears off over time and through activity in the water, thereby keeping organisms and deposits from collecting on the hull over time.

Once bottom paint has been applied to a boat, it must be maintained and reapplied as recommended by the manufacturer to keep the pontoons protected.

Antifouling Paint for Aluminum Pontoons

Different antifouling paints are recommended for saltwater and freshwater, and for various types of boats. Whether you apply it yourself or have your dealer or a boat service technician do the work, make sure that only paint created specifically for aluminum hulls is used.

Many bottom paints contain a copper oxide, but pontoon owners should avoid these. Unlike metals do not react well with each other, and a bottom paint that contains copper will end up eating away at the aluminum – similar to how salt would pit or corrode the hull over time if it hadn’t been protected in the first place. An alternative to copper is a metal-free biocide called Econea. 

Protect your investment from the hull up with a bottom paint that’s designed specifically for pontoons.

Source: Top Ten Antifouling Paint Buying Questions from West Marine